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June 13, 1974 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-06-13

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Thursday, June 13, 1974



Thrsay un .1, 94 HEMIHGA DIL agyv

'U' clericals consider unionization


To many people, the Univer-
sity is an institution of higher
learning, dedicated to higher
ideals and principles than the
average business, or even the
average government.
But to its non-professional em-
ployes, the University is like
any other employer - maybe
even a little worse, if events
of the past year are any indi-
In October, the University's
service and maintenance work-
ers began four and a half
months of intense contract talks
with the Regents. In April,
graduate assistants voted to
NOW, MEMBERS of a third
group are voicing their unhap-
piness with University employ-
ment policies. Leaflets and pos-
ters have appeared around cam-
pus urging about 3,000 clerical
workers to organize.
A hotly debated issue among
clerical workers, not surprising-
ly, is wages. In November, se-
cretaries at the law school con-
ducted a study and found that
average starting pay for a sen-
ior secretary at the University
was $5,520.
At Michigan State University,
a similar job paid $6,643, and at
Eastern Michigan University,
the salary was $6,250. Pay was
also higher at Washtenaw Com-
munity College, Central Michi-
gan University and Michigan
Civil Service, according to the
ed, "As the major employer of
secretaries in Ann Arbor, t h e
University is in a position to
exploit the surplus of compe-
tent women by paying low wag-
es. Although University secre-
taries have received pay rais-
es . . . in the last two years,
the increases have not covered
the increased cost of living."
The University responded with
a study of its own, showing that
in spite of the lower starting
salaries, maximum pay for the
job was considerably higher
than the amounts offered at oth-
er schools. And many secretar-
ies who have been at the Uni-
versity for a number of years
oppose unionizing for this very
"Salaries are pretty small
here in the begining." says one
secretary who has worked for
the University for over six
"BUT LONG-TERM employes
make good money, and the bene-
fit package is fantastic. I
wouldn't want to see a union
come in, because you may get
an initial raise, but you'd pro-
bably lose some benefits.
"The University's got to get
the money from somewhere,"
she argues.
A second sources of dissatis-
faction among some secretaries
is the merit system. Under this
system, raises and promotions
are awarded on the oasis of re-

views by an employe's super-
"IF THE supervisor doesn't
like you, yo''re not going any-
where. It doesn't matter h o w
long you stay. You can still be
making peanuts after years of
service," says a University Hs-
pital secretary.
But other clericals say ;-cy'd
hate to see the system go. "You
lose the incentive to work
hard," says one. "Some peonle
are just going to sit around, and
if everybody gets paid the same,

they're not going to fire you.
"If you get laid off before
then - well, you can always go
work soneplace else," says a
clerical worker at the Hospital.
FOR SOME clericals, these is-
sues are not essential to a de-
cision. Many of the anti-union
people point to negative a a s t
experiences with collective bar-
gaining and argue that unions do
nothing but collect dues.
Others say they dislike unions
because of their great power

cording to McCracken. Ie ar-
gues that these changes a a v e
improved the quality of w ar k
"When the University ge~s in
a position where they hose to
pay everybody the same amrn nt
of money to do the same amiount
of work, they're going to start
asking for a decent day's work.
You're not going to have people
sitting around, getting paid to
do nothing," says McCracken.
HIS CONCLUSION is support-

'We're a dime a dozen in Ann Arbor. If we don't like something, the
University can just point to the door. And if we do something that
our boss doesn't like, it's the same story. You're out and someone
else is waiting to replace you.
. .-A - -_." " . . t .. . . L . ."att- ..'- ''- .- . .........:L""'::-......

you feel silly knocking ynurself
out. I mean, if raises are sched-
uled, not earned, what's t h e
Union sonporters also express
dissatisfaction with the Univer-
sity's grievance policy. Under
present rules, employes' com-
plaints go to their supervisors,
and any decision can be appeal-
ed to several higher University
offices, according to Fames
'Thirv, Director of Personnel.
BUT A secretary who works
in the School of Social Work ar-
goes that the employe has little
control over this process, which
may go on for months.
"You can keep moving all the
way to the top with yoir griev-
ance. But even there, it's just
you against the University.
"There's nothing ti)guarantee
a fair settlement. Rit a lot of
neonle don't even start a griev-
ance because their sapeivisor
might discriminate against
them for comolaining. A com-
olaint could affect -our chances
for a raise or promotion," sihe
IN SPITE of Stark's objec-
tions to the system, nin secre-
taries did file grievances t h i s
year. But of 20 secretaries sur-
veved at random, two said they
would have filed complaints but
didn't have the time or energy.
Also important is the issue of
job security. "We're a dime a
dozen in Ann Arbor," says a
law school secretary.
"If we don't like sotne*hing,
the University can just point to
the door. And if we do sane-
thing that our boss doesa't like,
it's the same story. You're out
and someohe else is waiting to
replace you," she says.
OF THE 20 secretaries inter-
viewed, six said 'hey knew of
cases where fellow clericals had
been fired or "elbowed out" by
But for many of the older or
more professional secretaries,
this is not a concern. "On c e
you've been here a while,

over individuals. A third group
says they would be unhappy if
the union ever called a strike.
"Union meetings so far have
sounded like cheerleading ses-
sions with all the strike threats.
But many women here are sup-
porting children, and they need
the income from their jobs.
They can't afford to go out on
strike for long," says the law
school secretary.
SUPPORTERS of the unioniz-
ing effort, however, point proud-
ly to achievements of service
and maintenance workers on
campus. As members of t h e
American Federation rf State,
County and Municipal Employ-
es (AFSCME), these workers
have made great progress,
claims local president Charles
Of those service and main'en-
ance workers who were with the
University when the first con-
tract was negotiated :n 5968,
McCracken says most are mak-
ing 50 per cent more money.
"We now have job security,"
McCracken adds. "As long es a
person does his work, he does
not have to worry about some-
body kicking him out the docr.
"IN FACT, it's almost impos-
sible to fire anyone around here
right now. Before the University
gets rid of any union msem-
ber, they have to write us a let-
ter to notify the union. And
then we meet to discuss it. The
employer has to have a pretty
good reason before we'll agree,"
he says.
The grievance system is also
stronger for union members and
the merit system is gone, ac-
We Know How
To Do It
U-M Stylists
at the UNION

ed by Personnel Director Thiry.
With collective bargaining and
a uniform pay scale, Thiry says,
"there's evidence of less tol-
erance for the marginal worker.
The employer can't afford to
have soft spots in the organiza-
But with so many angles to
consider, 24 of 85 clericals re-
cently questioned said they still
had not decided or didn't know
enough about unionizing.
To make matters worse, those
who decide they want a union
will have to choose between two,
each promising a program and
enumerating the benefits of
that particular program.
SUPPORTERS of the United
Auto Workers (UAW) claim a
strong bargaining record f o r
the union. They also like the
UAW's separate division for
clerical and technical workers.
Another group favors AFSCVE
to represent campus secretaries.
Because University emplayes
are public servants who work

under different labor laws than
private employes, they say a
special union is called ftc--
one which, like AFSCME, repre-
sents only public employes.
But at this stage, a final de-
cision is months away. Union
supporters are currently circu-
lating interest cards which are
signed by employes who ought
want to unionize.
WHEN THEY have c-ards
from a third of the secretaries
on campus, supporters here will
petition the Michigan Employ-
ment Relations Commission
(MERC) to hold an election. At
that point, clericals w o u I d
have the right to vote for UAW,
AFSCME or a no-union option.
While 24 of 85 clericals ques-
tioned had not made a decision,
19 said they opposed unions, and
another 42 supported the idea.
A UAW organizer reports that,
in fact, over a third of the
workers concerned have mailed
in cards. But the group is re-
portedly working on a second
third to compensate for what it
calls an incredibly high turn-
over in staff at the University.
BY COLLECTING more cards
than they need, UAW support-
ers hope to avoid the possibil-
ity of finding that many secre-
taries who signed cards in the
spring have left before a veri-
fication check by MERC.
AFSCME would not disclose
the number of cards w h i c h
they have obtained.
It is difficult to predict the
outcome of the final election
which union supporters plan for
sometime this fall. The Univer-
sity, which is legally barred
from taking sides in the con-
troversy, says it will mace sure
its employes "have all tMe facts
before making a decision."
BUT THE Office of Per-
sonnel isn't going to "waste ink"
See 'U', Page 10

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